The UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships in Liège, Belgium, ended with the dream final everyone was hoping for, as holders Germany took on four-time world champions Austria. Patrick Schnetzer and Markus Bröll (Höchst/AUT) ultimately won back the rainbow jersey for their fifth triumph together since 2013, beating cousins Bernd and Gerhard Mlady (Stein/GER) 8-6 (5-1) in a repeat of the 2017 World Championships final. “It’s a dream come true after finishing second at our home World Championships in Dornbirn,” said delegation head Andy Schnetzer – Patrick’s father.
The defeated pair were visibly disappointed after the match. “We were aiming to defend our title, so of course we’re not happy right now,” said German outfield player Bernd Mlady immediately after the final whistle. “We slept through the first half, and although we improved after that, we were already playing catch-up by that point.”
Austria had already beaten the same opponents 8-6 in a captivating preliminary round duel, with the Germans failing to deploy any particular tactics in that encounter. “Patrick and Markus are currently our biggest rivals,” Bernd explained. “No matter when we play against each other, it doesn’t take much preparation. It’s always a fight to the last second. They’re high-level matches that are always good fun.”
Remarkably, the Mladys suffered a setback on the eve of the World Championships when all their cycle-ball bikes and replacement parts were stolen from the team bus on Thursday night. “That was our preparation,” said Gerhard Mlady. Instead of training, they spent their time passing information to police and arranging reserve bikes. The Germans seemed to have no trouble acclimatising to their new equipment with a 3-2 win over France, a 6-3 defeat of Belgium and a 4-4 draw with the Czech Republic in the preliminary round. “Things just got better and better after that,” added Gerhard. Despite an eventful weekend, the Mladys ultimately made it all the way to the silver medal.
As in 2017, Austria remained completely unbeaten throughout the competition. Having won the preliminary round, Schnetzer and Bröll stunned hosts Belgium 8-2 in the semi-final. Local heroes Brecht Damen and Niels Dirikx (Beringen/BEL) initially suffered a 12-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the intermediate round before beating the Czech Republic 5-2 to secure a place in the last four. Although their dreams of a medal were finally extinguished in the third-place play-off, fourth place marked the best ever World Championship finish for the Belgian champions.
The newly-formed Swiss duo of former world champions Roman Schneider (2012) and Paul Looser (2002) beat Belgium 5-2 to secure bronze, having been narrowly edged out by Germany 5-4 in the semi-final.
The final came to a close with a sporting gesture from Gerhard Mlady, who was one of the first to hoist his rival Patrick Schnetzer into the air after Austria’s victory. Meanwhile Paul Looser signed off from the bronze-medal match in style, bidding farewell to the tournament with a backwards flip instead of leading the fans in a Mexican wave.
Arguably the most emotional moment of the UCI Indoor Cycling World Championships 2018 in Liège, Belgium, happened well away from the competitive action. When artistic cyclist Géry Covent returned to the arena for his World Championships comeback after a 15-year absence, he paused for a photo alongside his cousin and tournament co-organiser Dimitri Covent beside the competition floor.
After taking the picture, the pair lifted their gaze to the heavens towards Géry’s uncle and Dimitri’s father Rudy Covent, who passed away in early October. With this simple gesture, the Belgian pair paid tribute to the two-time World Championships cycle-ball bronze medallist in 1991 and 1995.
Géry’s return did not go as planned. “It wasn’t the result I was hoping for, but I enjoyed being back on the bike nonetheless,” he reflected after his performance. He scored 86.59 points to finish in 18th place. The previous and new world champion in the Single Men event is Lukas Kohl (Kirchehrenbach/GER). Although the now three-time recipient of the UCI rainbow jersey did not deliver a flawless display in the Final 4, even briefly setting his feet on the floor at one point during his routine, his score of 200.36 kept him ahead of the pack, with a free program that often seemed as though it came from another planet. Yet winning a hat-trick of titles was by no means a foregone conclusion, as Kohl knew that he would have to fend off a strong challenge from Moritz Herbst (Wendlingen/GER). “I was surprised how strongly he has come back,” the Kirchehrenbach rider said.
Having suffered a serious shoulder injury in the first half of the season that made qualifying for the World Championships a success story in itself, Herbst was delighted to finish in second place. The 2017 runner-up scuppered his slim chance of clinching gold by falling during his Maute jump and turning jump and suffering deductions towards the end of his program – but his final score of 184.74 was enough to secure a second successive silver medal.
Meanwhile Chin To Wong (Hong Kong) won his fifth World Championship bronze. He delivered one of his best performances in the medal round to score 177.96 points, just short of his own Asian record. Wong celebrated his achievement with a delighted fist pump.
Switzerland’s Lukas Burri also received hearty applause for his fourth-place finish after performing a flawless program to end his campaign with 170.22 points. He then received enthusiastic congratulations from his sparkler-waving team-mates as the entire hall serenaded him with a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, a day after he and Fabienne Hammerschmidt collected a surprise silver medal in the Pairs Open event.
Single Men results – Final 4
1. Lukas Kohl (GER) – 200.36
2. Moritz Herbst (GER) – 184.74
3. Chin To Wong (HKG) – 177.96
4. Lukas Burri (SUI) – 170.22
Sisters from the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate won the women’s pairs event once again. Lena and Lisa Bringsken (Böhl-Iggelheim/GER) thought they had missed out on the title after their final routine, with a score of 135.23 points initially only guaranteeing them second place – so ending the competition as world champions came as something of a surprise.
“We’ve gained so much experience over the past three years and wanted to put down two good runs,” said Lena Bringsken. “Winning gold was our target, of course, but we didn’t think it was still possible.” Her younger sister Lisa agreed, adding: “It seemed to be out of the question after our final program. I still can’t believe it.”
UCI World Cup winners Carolina Wurth and Sophie-Marie Nattmann (Gutach/GER) seemed destined for gold. The duo maintained their lead until the final minute of their routine, when they lost their balance while performing a travelling shoulder stand on one bike. After failing on their second attempt at the same exercise, they were left with a score of 121.40. Sophie-Marie expressed their disappointment through tears, saying: “It’s less about where we finished and more about our own performance.” It was their first World Championships together, and the duo are already keen to have another shot at the title in 2019.
Austria’s Rosa Kopf and Svenja Bachmann were delighted with their bronze medal, improving their score to 116.21 points in the final to keep the similarly flawless Swiss pair Nathalie Steinemann and Irina Christinger (110.18) at bay.
Pair Women results – Final 4
1. Lena and Lisa Bringsken (GER) – 135.23
2. Carolina Wurth/Sophie-Marie Nattmann (GER) – 121.40
3. Rosa Kopf/Svenja Bachmann (AUT) – 116.21
4. Nathalie Steinemann/Irina Christinger (SUI) – 110.18